Wies Journey to Superstardom Began with a Victory
Not a bad first step on the path to superstardom.
The 6-foot prodigy takes the next step in her unprecedented journey Wednesday, six days before turning 16. That's when she turns professional and becomes the richest female golfer in the world with multimillion dollar endorsements.
At age 11, Wie became the youngest winner of the Jennie K. Wilson Invitational, beating defending champion Bobbi Kokx by nine strokes.
``I still joke that I think I could've taken her when she was 9,'' said Kokx, a former player and coach at the University of Hawaii. ``If you're going to come second to someone, why not Michelle Wie?''
Wie's golf instructor at the time, Casey Nakama, said he realized Wie's potential during that tournament.
``That's when we knew there was going to be something special here, at 11 years old,'' he said.
Special may be an understatement.
In just four years, Wie has already left her mark on the sport, proving she can play with the best in the world -- regardless of her age and gender.
``I'm dumbfounded by how she's taken the golf world,'' Nakama said.
A press conference is scheduled for 8 a.m. HST from the Kahala Mandarin Oriental resort, a short drive away from Wie's home and Punahou School, where she will attend classes after the announcement.
``When I watch this thing on TV, absolutely, I'll feel lucky we were part of this whole thing,'' Nakama said.
He remembers when a well-mannered 9-year-old who had ambitions of becoming a tournament player enrolled at his school at Olomana Golf Links.
``She was just an average junior,'' Nakama said. ``She was tall for her age, but she didn't have extraordinary ability at that time.''
That soon changed.
Wie devoted most of her free time to practicing -- at least three hours a day after school and seven to eight hours every weekend.
``I've had a lot of juniors that had similar abilities, but none of them had the same drive as she did. I think that's the difference,'' Nakama said.
With her big, smooth, effortless swing, Wie was quickly outdriving older girls, not to mention many men. After a couple years, Nakama introduced punch shots into the wind, hooks and fades.
``Normally, I have girls that can do that in high school and college -- but not at 11 or 12 years old,'' he said.
There was also another startling moment for Nakama at the 2002 Takefuji Classic, where 12-year-old Wie became the youngest player to earn a spot in an LPGA Tour event through a qualifier.
Wie was on the driving range comparing her shots, which were measuring up with the pros -- including Annika Sorenstam's. ``At that point, I knew it was just a matter of experience,'' he said.
The Takefuji was the first of many pro events to come for Wie. She has played 24 times on the LPGA Tour, and hasn't missed a cut in the last two years.
She was runner-up at the LPGA Championship to Sorenstam in June, and tied for third at the Women's British Open in July. Both are majors on the LPGA Tour.
Had she taken prize money this year, Wie would have earned $640,870, enough to be 12th on the LPGA money list in just seven tournaments.
Wie has competed five times against the men, without making a cut -- three on the PGA Tour, once on the Nationwide Tour and once on the Canadian Tour.
Kokx, who was paired with Wie on the final day of the Jennie K., said she was impressed with the youngster's power, raw talent, focus, knowledge of the game and maturity, even at 11.
``What probably surprised me the most was her composure for the three days,'' said Kokx, who has played in four local tournaments with Wie. ``It was just really exciting to see someone that good play.''
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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88
MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.
Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.
Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.
The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.
On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.
Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.
He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.
In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.
Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.
Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M
In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.
This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.
Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.
Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.
The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.
Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout
CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.
Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.
Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.
“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”
Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.
“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”
Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break
Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.
Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.
Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.
“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”
Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.
“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”
Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.